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Former WWII comfort women ask Duterte to raise their plight with Japan’s Abe

By Xinhua

Former WWII sex slaves ask Duterte to raise their plight with Japan's Abe (MANILA BULLETIN / XINHUA)

Former WWII sex slaves ask Duterte to raise their plight with Japan’s Abe
(MANILA BULLETIN / XINHUA)

MANILA — Filipino “comfort women” urged President Rodrigo Duterte to raise their plight in his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“At least mention the comfort women,” said Rechilda Extremadura, executive director of Lila Pilipina, an organization of World War II comfort women.

She lamented that the previous Philippine administrations have ignored the plight of the Filipino women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II in talks with Japanese government.

“Our previous leaders have failed us because they are all afraid of rumpling feathers of diplomacy with Japan. With President Duterte, who we believe is no pushover, we are hopeful that finally the issue will be placed in the agenda, at the very least,” she said in a statement.

Extremadura said Duterte, who is pursuing an independent foreign policy, can stand up to Japan and seek recognition for the wartime sexual slavery that the comfort women endured during the last world war.

“We seek historical recognition for comfort women as much as we seek compensation for the (grandmothers) to make their twilight years more comfortable. We are afraid that as we speak, (grandmothers) are growing weaker and weaker and they may no longer live to see the day that justice will finally be given to them,” she said.

“The comfort women support Duterte’s independent foreign policy because they do not want the next generation to experience wartime sexual abuse,” Extremadura said.

Lila Pilipina has been campaigning against the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement with the United States “because the agreements will breed sexual violence and abuse of women”.

“We support Duterte’s statement that he will not allow foreign military troops, including Japanese troops, in the country. We reiterate our call: Never again to another generation of comfort women,” Extremadura said.

Lila Pilipina (League of Filipino Women) has documented 174 “comfort women” who have gone public since early 1990s. Only 70 of them remain alive. Another group, the Malaya Lolas (Free Grandmothers), has documented 90 but the number dwindled to 33 following the death of the rest over the years.

Both groups are demanding: official apology, just compensation, and inclusion of the comfort women issue in Japan’s historical accounts and textbooks.

The Philippine government has intentionally avoided discussions of the issue in bilateral talks with Japan.